Labour History Review

Job Destruction and Closures in Deindustrializing Britain: The Uses and Decline of Workplace Occupations in the 1980s

Labour History Review (2021), 86, (1), 91–115.

Abstract

This article considers the uses and decline of workplace occupations in the 1980s. Developing the contribution by Alan Tuckman on the rise of occupations in the 1970s, attention is given to the structural factors that can explain the reasons why workers’ uses of the tactics have declined since the period. Focusing on the wider context and two contrasting cases (the 1980 Gardner and 1984 Cammell Laird occupations), this article advances six key reasons why this decline has taken place. First, the decline of manufacturing and rising unemployment in the 1980s; second, an overall decline in strikes more generally in terms of their incidence and duration; third, anti-union legislation and policing; fourth, the lack of a positive demonstration effect with regard to ‘successful’ examples of occupations in the 1980s; fifth, the decline of debates around alternative forms of ownership, including nationalization and the incipient workers’ control/cooperatives movement; and sixth, the decline of the far left and the networks that had sustained occupations to some extent in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Author details

Mustchin, Stephen